The Endorsement: Palin Gives Trump the Nod

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Donald Trump landed his most high-profile endorsement to date on Tuesday when former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took the stage in Iowa to throw her support behind the real estate magnate. Palin, who achieved national acclaim in 2008 when tapped as John McCain’s running mate, said that Trump was “putting relationships on the line for this country” for the privilege of making American great again.

“I am here because like you, I know it’s now or never,” Palin said.

The endorsement comes as uncertainty surrounds the Iowa caucuses. For one of the first times since throwing his hat into the ring, Trump is number two in the polls, at least as far as the first primary state is concerned. Since slipping to that position, he has unleashed a torrential assault on Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative evangelical whose brand of politics is more closely aligned to the values of Iowa voters. So far, though, the polls continue to show Cruz ahead.

On Tuesday, Cruz got a double shot of bad news, including the Palin endorsement. The other bad news came when the governor of Iowa denounced the Texas senator for his stance against ethanol subsidies.

Gov. Terry Branstad said, “It would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him. And I know he’s ahead in the polls but the only poll that counts is the one they take on caucus night and I think that could change between now and then.”

But while Branstad’s anti-endorsement of Cruz could hurt him in the caucuses, it is Palin’s enthusiastic support of Trump that’s more likely to make a difference nationally. Palin has a mixed reputation in the mainstream media, but she has remained a popular figure in conservative circles, particularly the Tea Party.

Cruz handled the news of Palin’s endorsement with class, telling reporters that he would “remain a big, big fan of Sarah Palin” regardless of what she chose to do in 2016.

Will this be the push Trump needs to solidify his case for the nomination? It might well be. Palin and Trump, in many ways, speak to the same longing in the conservative electorate for a politician who dispenses with oratorical elegance. This makes both of them targets for mockery on the left, but that’s a sideshow. The more important factor is that voters see them as real people. They don’t appear manufactured. They don’t run each and every talking point through a focus group. They get up on stage, they say what they have to say, and they aren’t afraid of telling the media what they can do if they don’t like it.

With Palin in Trump’s corner, the hopes of the Republican establishment just got a little dimmer.